This Is Just to Say

A while back “This American Life” on NPR stations aired an episode called “Mistakes Were Made.”  The show was all about people who apologize without really apologizing.  A short segment at the end of the broadcast featured William Carlos Williams’ poem “This is Just to Say,” which reads:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

– William Carlos Williams


I am sorry to admit that I don’t remember ever having heard or read this infamous poem before Sunday, but now that I have, I can’t get it out of my mind.  One of the interesting things about the “Life” segment was that they asked several of their regular contributes to write and share their own “parodies” of the poem in question.  Some of them were funny; others quite poignant.  Since Sunday, several bloggers have written their own versions of the poem, and here are a a few of them:

This is just to say
I ran over your cat

forgive me
he just looked so retarded

although he was born that way
his eyes were crossed
his tail was bent

would have wanted it this way

If it makes you
feel better
it took me three tries
to catch him
Found here.

Here is another:

This is just to say
I have killed
the dreams
that were in
your heart

and which
you were probably saving
for when you grew up

Forgive me
they were impossible
so hopeful
and so like my own
Found here.

And here is a “parenting a teenager” version of the poem, I found here.

I have dried
the shirt
made of 100% cotton

that was on your floor
and which
you were probably
to air dry

Forgive me
if you had sorted
your own laundry
it would not be
so short
and so small


Of course I have decided to try my own hand at writing one myself.  Here it is:

This Is Just to Say

That when your
Guinea Pig Ginger died
I bought a replacement
that looked just
like her but was smaller.

I know I told you
that she had been
on a diet
and had lost
a lot of weight,
but I lied.

Forgive me
you were so young
and had been so sad
and I couldn’t bear to tell you
the truth.

– Dad


So, gentle readers, here is a challenge for you.  Write your own version of this poem and post it in the comments or provide a link to your own blog where I and others can find it.  If you need help, you can use this web wizard for help.  I also believe my friend Julie is working on a post featuring this poem as well.  When and if she posts it, I will provide you all with a link.

Also, if you’d like to hear the “This American Life” episode for yourself, you can go here to listen to it:  A description of the episode from the site follows:

“Mistakes Were Made – Act Two. You’re Willing to Sacrifice Our Love.

There’s a famous William Carlos Williams poem called “This is Just to Say”. It’s about, among other things, causing a loved one inconvenience and offering a non-apologizing apology. It’s only three lines long, you’ve probably read it…the one about eating the plums in the icebox. Marketplace reporter (and published poet) Sean Cole explains that this is possibly the most spoofed poem around. We asked some of our regular contributors to get into the act. Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, Starlee Kine, Jonathan Goldstein, Shalom Auslander and Heather O’Neill, all came up with their own variations of Williams’s classic lines. (6 minutes)”

A Quote that Is Informing my Sermon Preparation

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, Therefore, we are saved by hope.

Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;Therefore, we are saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we are saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite a virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or
foe as from our own; Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love
which is forgiveness.

– Reinhold Neibuhr

I may or may not use this in my sermon for this coming Sunday (at our Welcome Table service), but for me it is certainly a provocative quote. Forgiveness is the way our faith, hope and love are embodied in our lives. This was, at least true for Jesus, and it should be true for his followers as well. Forgiveness is also how mercy and grace are in evidence in and through us.

One possible text for Sunday is John 9:8-10 – verses not used in the Revised Common Lectionary at all (a crying shame if you ask me). Here we find Jesus showing mercy and grace to a woman caught in adultery and facing the “stoning squad.” “Neither do I condemn you,” he tells her, “Go and leave your life of sin behind.”

Leaving behind our own “lives of sin” is possible only if we experience forgiveness of the magnitude that Jesus offered that nameless woman so long ago. It is only possible if we have tasted grace and felt mercy. And once this has happened to us, we have no choice but to offer the same to others.